The Federal Trade Commission came under fire when it released new disclosure guidelines on sponsorships this fall. Most vocal were bloggers concerned that anyone online could be fined up to $11,000 for disclosure violations.
But Len Gordon, the FTC's Northeast director, thinks speculation surrounding the new rules has been overblown. Speaking at Venable's "mini-summit" in New York this morning, Gordon took a moment to dispel rumors that his agency will be banging down the door of mommy bloggers who accept free samples of soap without posting about it.
You may not be able to fit a whole lot of words into 140 characters but a growing number of individuals and businesses think that it doesn't take more than 140 characters to produce a profit.
While Twitter focuses on building its platform and brand, plenty of third parties have been focusing on using Twitter as a marketing platform of their own. From established companies like Dell to upstarts like Sponsored Tweets, many are trying to cash in on Twitter.
It's probably no surprise that the blogosphere caught fire when the FTC officially announced rules meant to regulate blogger payola and social media endorsements. And it's probably no surprise that, by in large, some of the blogosphere's most prominent voices found plenty to criticize in the FTC's efforts.
And for good reason. Because no matter how well-intentioned the FTC's regulations may be, they're going to be pretty darn difficult to enforce. After all, it appears that the rules would cover activity on plenty of websites and the number of people who could potentially violate them is astronomical. If you live in the United States and can set up a blog or post an affiliate link somewhere, you could conceivably qualify for an "educational" experience courtesy of the FTC.
The Federal Trade Commission today announced the penalty for bloggers, celebrities and lay people who fail to disclose receiving payment for endorsements. Starting December 1, anyone who endorses a product, virtually anywhere, without disclosing brand relationships will receive a fine for $11,000.
This is the first time the FTC has updated its guidelines since 1980. Clearly some updating was neccessary. But enforcement is another story.
$11,000 is a steep price to pay for endorsement violations. And the fees will likely come out of brands' pockets.
In the online battle for privacy rights versus advertising, privacy advocates today drew a line in the sand with requests that Congress draft legislation limiting the practice of behavioral targeting.
A group of 10 consumer privacy groups is urging Congress to draft a new bill for online privacy this fall. And while it is unlikely that all of the group's requests will go into effect, it is yet another sign that the future of behavioral targeting does not look bright.
While it may seem strange for the federal government to start tracking users online as it ramps up its investigation into private companies usage of behavioral targeting, it is important that the two issues be kept separate.
The administration is not asking for special priviledges but simply bringing its websites in line with common online practices. And that is a good thing.
The Federal Trade Commision has been breathing down the neck of online advertisers for months now. But under David C. Vladeck, the new head of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, it looks like the investigation into behavioral targeting tactics online may take a more emotional shift.
Congress has been mulling an opt-in bill that would require all advertisers online to ask consumers every time they try to use their data. But now Vladeck seems to be proposing a new measure for proper advertising online which is something of a dignity index.
Social media can be a great tool but there's an ugly side. Because of the nature of social media, its commercialization has raised a number of issues around subjects like disclosure and integrity.
The reality is that paying to play is an easy and effective way for brands to get into the social media game. The downsides of this were demonstrated quite well at this year's BlogHer conference.
Online advertisers are hoping to head off federal regulation of behavioral targeting with new measures that protect users' privacy and inform them of when and where they are being tracked online.
A new bill being crafted in Congress is rumored to include a regulation that would force advertisers to use opt-in provisions when tracking users online.
But web advertisers are trying to come up with measures that would adequately inform consumers of their tracking policies to avoid a blanket provision that could severely handicap the business of collecting user information and selling it to advertisers.
Journalists have long been held accountable to readers about what companies they receive money from and invest in. But bloggers have had more leeway in exchanging free products and services for coverage. But the Federal Trade Commission would like to change that, with new rules that would require bloggers to disclose any conflicts of interest in their online coverage.
According to the Associated Press:
"New guidelines, expected to be approved late this summer with
possible modifications, would clarify that the agency can go after
bloggers--as well as the companies that compensate them--for any false
claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest. It would be the first time the FTC tries to patrol systematically what
bloggers say and do online. The common practice of posting a graphical
ad or a link to an online retailer — and getting commissions for any
sales from it — would be enough to trigger oversight."
As blogging becomes more institutionalized, the matter of where money goes online becomes more important. However, with the new guidelines unfinalized, it remains unclear on how effective — or ruthless — they will be.